Lot 111
  • 111

Roy Lichtenstein

600,000 - 800,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Standing Explosion #3 (Yellow)
  • signed on the front left leg
  • porcelain enamel on steel
  • 38 by 30 by 24 in. 96.5 by 76.2 by 61 cm.
  • Executed in 1965, this work is a color variant within an edition of 6, with 2 of that edition (#1 and #3) following the same color scheme.


Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC #384)
Collection of Robert and Janet Kardon, Philadelphia (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, New York, 4 May 1982, Lot 70
Collection of Norman and Ruth Zachary, West Newton (acquired from the above sale)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Roy Lichtenstein, September - November 1969, cat. no. 94, p. 87, illustrated


Edward Lucie-Smith, "Mixed Shows and Feelings," Studio International, No. 881, September 1966, p. 148, illustrated
Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1971, pl. 118, illustrated


This work is in very good and sound condition overall. Please contact the Contemporary Department at (212) 606-7254 for a professional condition report prepared by Ellen Moody Sculpture and Decorative Arts Conservation.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Roy Lichtenstein achieved significant critical acclaim in the 1950s when he assertively challenged the preeminent aesthetic priorities and core artistic ambitions which his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries held paramount. Mimicking the crude printing processes of newspaper production and exploiting the Ben-Day dot pattern of mid-century commercial engravings, Lichtenstein introduced a groundbreaking visual language which, while quite familiar in popular society, presented an entirely new course within the canon of traditional fine art. With both style and content, Lichtenstein directly quoted comic books and other mass produced popular materials, referencing commercial society with a striking precision.

Lichtenstein’s Standing Explosion #3 (Yellow) comes from a pivotal moment in the artist’s practice when he began to tackle new subject matter, leaving behind the mundane to address some of the most pressing issues from the world around him. With mounting anxiety throughout the United States around threats of nuclear explosions following the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the ever-growing tensions around the Vietnam War, Lichtenstein’s Standing Explosion #3 (Yellow) captures a cultural moment particular to the 1960s and addresses some of the most emotionally brimming associations of this time head-on. In this context, the sculpture is imbued with a distinctly feverish energy, pushing its impact beyond the clean lines, primary colors, and simple shapes that constitute this work from a formal perspective. This explosive imagery became one of Lichtenstein’s signature motifs, seen first within paintings such as Blam, painted in 1962 and in the permanent collection of the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven and in Whaam! from 1963, featured in the permanent collection of the Tate Modern in London. However, it was not until 1965 that the artist expanded his explosion imagery beyond the canvas to become a standalone object in its own right.

With the present work, Lichtenstein has extracted a fragment of highly dynamic imagery and brilliantly flattened it with the utmost sophistication, rendering only its most fundamental and basic formal qualities before inviting his blast back into the three-dimensional space it originally inhabited. The sculpted form presents an engaging juxtaposition between the sturdy physicality of his chosen steel support and the fleeting nature of an explosion itself. As Diane Waldman noted, "Lichtenstein's sculpture is an extension of his painting. With enamel, Lichtenstein accomplished two objectives: he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete" (Daine Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1971, p. 23). By placing this fleeting explosive moment into a stable and constant everlasting form, Lichtenstein invites us to consider a profound collision between the momentary and the eternal with this powerful work.